If you mix the facial emotions of Kermit, the color of Ernie from 'Sesame Street,' and a little bit of Michael Cera, what do you get? Walter, the newest addition to the Muppet cast! With 'The Muppets' opening nationwide next week, there have been plenty of recent stories, interviews and fun facts about Jim Henson's famous creations. Now comes a New York Times profile of Walter, the Muppet who plays Jason Segel's adopted brother in the film. Most studios would likely use a new Muppet to help sell merchandise and theme park rides, but the folks at Disney were surprisingly hands off when it came time to creating a new character.
As Times writer Brooks Barnes points out, "Disney executives, perhaps partly because they were distracted by a painful studio restructuring at the time, did not manhandle the film, allowing it to be weird, witty -- 'Muppety' in Mr. Segel's words -- and even a bit risqué." As for Walter...
The writers did not elaborate on his looks beyond saying Walter had the feel of 'an old dishrag' and wore a blue suit, said Paul Andrejco, president of the Puppet Heap Workshop, the Hoboken, N.J., fabrication studio that made Walter. Mr. Andrejco said he started sketching various Walters -- skinny, plump, more human, more animal -- ultimately presenting 14 different iterations to producers. Once the team decided on a basic image, there were discussions about texture and color. 'We looked at 25 different possibilities, ranging from pink and scruffy to orange-y speckly to flat gray,' Mr. Andrejco said. Would he have ears? What about a nose? Bushy eyebrows or narrow?... The finished Walter, Mr. Andrejco said, is remarkably similar to Kermit, at least in functionality. His face, an orange color reminiscent of Ernie from 'Sesame Street,' was designed to be extra flexible to express a range of emotions.
It took about a month to make the actual puppet. After a series of auditions, including one with puppeteer Peter Linz, the producers weren't ready to cast anyone. However, they decided to give Linz another shot. "They called and said nobody had given them exactly what they wanted, but that they wanted me to fly to Los Angeles to try again," said Linz. "They told me to think about Michael Cera -- that if he was a puppeteer he would already have the job."

So, Walter is a socially awkward puppet? Interesting. (Also, side note: poor Michael Cera may never escape the awkward persona.) You can read the entire Muppets piece over on NYT. 'The Muppets' hits theaters on Nov. 23.

[via NYT]

[Photo: Disney]
The Muppets
PG 2011
Based on 37 critics

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